Houngbégnon F. G. A., Gillet J.-F., Michaux J., Brostaux Y., Zébazé D., Lhoest S., Vermeulen C., Sonké B., Doucet J.-L.  Seed dispersal by duikers in selectively logged rainforests: Overlooked dispersal of an important animal community. Forest Ecology and Management 529 (2023) 120650
Seed dispersal by frugivores is a key process which is necessary for the regeneration of plant communities. The decrease in the abundance of fruit-eating mammals due to anthropogenic pressures impacts on the proper functioning of forest ecosystems.
In this study, for the first time we evaluate seed dispersal by duikers (Bovidae, frugivores and the most hunted animals of the rainforests of central Africa: Congo basin), using germination trials of seeds contained in their dung and rumen. The influence of selective timber harvesting on this dispersal was also examined by comparing duiker community occupancy between a logged and an unlogged site.
Our results revealed a community of four duiker species Cephalophus silvicultor, Philantomba congica and two species of ‘red’ duiker (C. callipygus and C. castaneus). A total of 79 plant species (5481 seedlings) were found in the dungs of all duikers and a total of 37 species (5225 seedlings) were observed in the rumens of red duikers and P. congica. Phyllanthus sp. and Musanga cecropioides were the dominant taxa in dung and rumen contents respectively. Taxa of high commercial value such as Erythrophleum suaveolens, Milicia excelsa and Nauclea diderrichii were also observed. The lack of a clear difference between the plant communities dispersed by the duiker species (assessed by β-diversity) showed that they play redundancy rather than complementary dispersal roles.
Duikers play an underestimated role in the restoration of environments disturbed by logging or shifting cultivation as most of the species observed are pioneer colonizing species. Furthermore duiker communities appear to be affected little by selective logging.
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